On September 29, 2022, Boston’s Boch Center announced the reboot of the Folk Americana Roots Hall of Fame (FARHOF), an educational initiative housed in the Wang Theatre. According to its website, “the Hall of Fame will celebrate the history of Folk, Americana and Roots music through displays, memorabilia, artifacts, multi-media, lectures, concerts and special curated exhibits.”
Five of those exhibits opened in September, and one of them celebrates Boston’s decades-long place on the American musical map. “Boston: A Music Town” features a series of displays lining the third-floor hallways, spanning everything from folk and rock to the Boston Symphony Orchestra to hip-hop. Jazz too, and I hope you all can see it, but not only because of the subject. I also loaned the Hall of Fame items from my own collection for display, and I am pleased to share these treasures with the public. They look quite at home amidst the finery of the Wang Theatre. FARHOF’s own photographer snapped the photo shown here.
The exhibit’s curators, Deana McCloud and Bob Santelli of the Museum Collective, picked some choice items for display. The earliest is a 1933 photo of Mal Hallett’s orchestra with Toots Mondello, Gene Krupa, Jack Jenney, and Frankie Carle (now that was a Boston band!). The most recent is the September 1986 calendar from the 1369 Jazz Club, welcoming Jack McDuff, a Steve Lacy/Roscoe Mitchell group, Hal Galper, and Joe Lovano among others.
McCloud selected two items that neatly bridge the gap between jazz and the exhibit’s more pronounced folk and roots fare. A February 1968 flyer from the Club 47 (still a year away from being renamed Passim) shows a time when jazz (Mose Allison), folk (Jim Kweskin), and blues (John Hammond) shared the eclectic club’s calendar. A second flyer promotes an extraordinary session at Newport in 1965, when George Wein presented “the family of jazz,” which that night included Dizzy Gillespie, Pete Seeger, Muddy Waters, and Joe Williams.
Reminds me of what Big Bill Broonzy (or maybe Louis Armstrong) once said, “All music is folk music. I ain’t never heard no horse sing a song.”
I’m enthusiastic about what the Folk Americana Roots Hall of Fame is doing, although jazz has almost no role in it. This whole Folk Americana Roots business is mostly about the folk and rock beloved by so many boomers. Readers of this blog are well aware of how jazz is woven into the fabric of American music, and given that, we should try to make the case for a more visible role for jazz in FARHOF’s domain. I already suggested one exhibit-worthy name to McCloud and Santelli for their consideration, and it’s an obvious one–George Wein.
The Hall of Fame is fully committed to advancing American music, and doing it here, in Boston. Everybody should just go see it. The way to do that now is to go to a show at the Wang Theatre, or sign up for a tour. Maybe if we can get enough people together, they’ll give us a group rate. I know somebody on the staff.